Swedish-Finnish map factory on location in exercise area

Regardless of where in the world an NBG deployment takes place, the Swedish-Finnish unit Geospatial Support Group (Geo SG) is prepared to produce custom maps on location for staff units and individual soldiers.

When a staff unit is established in the mission area, Geo GS can man what is called the Geocell with more powerful computing resources for performing geographic analyses and producing maps in formats up to A0. Photo: Geo SG

“In Sweden, we are spoiled by having access to maps that are almost too good. In the event of an NBG deployment, we will probably need to produce our own map materials,” says Captain Klas Karlsson, who commands the Swedish-Finnish Geo SG.

Geo SG’s task during an exercise is to collect, process and analyze the geographic information required to produce custom map products.

“For a deployment in Africa, for example, our services are essential. Updated maps for the area will hardly be available, and much of the information will need to be supplemented. Roads and bridges often change in these areas due to wet and dry periods,” says Klas Karlsson.

“Realistic maps during the final exercise gave us a taste of what to expect.”

Recruiting the 12 Geo SG members was not difficult. In order for the reaction force to perform well in the field, the ambition was to create a team with the broadest possible competence. The group’s members have international experience from the Balkans and Liberia. The Finnish contingent is specialized in its own areas of expertise, which include terrain analysis and field surveying.

Satellite images secured first
The first task in an NBG mission is to obtain data for quality-assuring satellite images, which are an import source for detailed maps. This is done by measuring coordinates for cross-roads and other landmarks using advanced GPS techniques with an accuracy greater than one meter.

At its home base in Stockholm, Geo SG then adjusts existing maps and satellite images over the area, based on data reported from the field.

Supporting data from the companies
In the mission area, Geo SG conducts road measurements together with the rifle companies using the ordinary GPS receivers found in every vehicle. After a patrol round, the data is uploaded to Geo GS, which then used this data and locally obtained paper maps to create new road maps.

Personal maps
With a portable computer and printer, Geo GS can begin producing maps on location to support the troops. These may vary from personal escape and evasion maps on waterproof paper for each soldier to planning maps in large format for staff operations.

“In Sweden, we have very excellent maps. We are also used to certain types of terrain and know how the local terrain is affected by seasonal weather. In a mission area, everything can be completely different, and the supporting data is undoubtedly very deficient,” says Klas Karlsson.

“NBG’s final exercise in northern Sweden was therefore conducted using very realistic map materials. The maps were not so poor that the exercise could not be completed, but they gave us a taste of what to expect. Good maps are not at all self-evident!” concludes Klas Karlsson.

Text: Anna Verputten